How La Cocina empowers women, immigrants, and people of color to start their businesses
At AppLovin, inclusion and diversity are extremely important and we encourage employees to advocate for causes and organizations that mean something to them. As a result, the FemLovin group was formed, which is an informal group of women at AppLovin that share and discuss a wide range of topics including books, politics, and how to better collaborate at work.
Every quarter, FemLovin invites speakers or organizations to come speak at AppLovin about their cause. In February, we invited La Cocina, a non-profit that works to solve problems of equity in business ownership, to tell us more about their organization. La Cocina works primarily with women, immigrants, and people of color to kickstart their food-related businesses.
La Cocina Deputy Director, Leticia Landa, spoke about her work with La Cocina over the past decade. Landa discovered La Cocina while she was studying Anthropology at Harvard and joined the non-profit in 2008 as its third staff member. As a daughter of Mexican immigrants, she was immediately drawn to La Cocina’s mission to help women, immigrants, and people of color.
Joining Landa was Adriana Almazan Lahl, a graduate of La Cocina who went on to find Sala de Vida Gourmet. Lahl immigrated to the US from Mexico in 1994 with dreams working in sales and marketing. She got a job working on integrated systems for a construction company where she faced challenges of being in a male-dominated industry. On top of that, she wasn’t taken seriously because she wasn’t fluent in English.
In 2002, Lahl moved to San Francisco to marry her husband and she had to find something else to do. She began taking culinary classes at the Cordon Bleu and other places. She then began making her own finishing salts that were infused with various flavors. She eventually went on to co-write a recipe book called Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions, and Recipes. Today, her company Sal de Vida Gourmet includes her packaged salts, packaged foods, and catering services.
“La Cocina gave very good guidance,” said Lahl. “They gave me training in marketing and finance and got volunteers to help design my website. They also have staff that helps you make consistent recipes each time.”
According to Landa, one of the biggest reasons why so many restaurant businesses fail is because entrepreneurs have to invest so much in renting a space and buying their equipment that they can’t build a loyal customer base quickly enough. That’s why La Cocina runs a shared kitchen space so that entrepreneurs don’t have to waste capital while ramping up. “We do everything we can to bring the cost of starting a business down,” said Landa.
In addition to bringing down the cost of starting a business, La Cocina relies on volunteers to help those in their program build websites and populate it with professionally shot food photography. This helps students in La Cocina’s program build their customer base while increasing sales well before they begin looking for a physical space to move into.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for La Cocina,” said Lahl. The experience and knowledge she gained from the program have allowed her packaged food and catering businesses to flourish.
If you would like to get involved with La Cocina, you can shop, donate, or become a member, both of which gives 100% of the proceeds to pay for operating costs. Members can choose a specific amount to donate each month and gets you regular insider communications, first access to tickets for events, 10% discount on retail items online and at La Cocina kiosks, and access to an annual Member Appreciation Party for you and a plus one.